Bordeaux Wine Trip

At 112,000 hectares of vine­yard, Bordeaux is the largest AOC vine­yard in France. The cre­ation of the 6 wine routes means its eas­ier to ex­plore than ever

Bordeaux J'Adore - - Contents - CARO­LINE MATTHEWS

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ONE OF THE FIRST SIGHTS TO GREET A VIS­I­TOR TO THE PER­MA­NENT EX­HI­BI­TION at La Cité du Vin is the aerial footage of some of the world’s great­est vine­yards and whether you are watch­ing Stel­len­bosch with the ma­jes­tic Ta­ble Moun­tain, the Douro Val­ley with its pre­cip­i­tous ter­races or Tus­cany with its rolling hills, it is dif­fi­cult not to get too car­ried away. For­tu­nately for those seek­ing to ex­tend their vi­nous ex­pe­ri­ence fol­low­ing a visit to the mu­seum, a wine tour in­for­ma­tion desk is sit­u­ated on the ground floor, of­fer­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of dis­cov­er­ing the most em­blem­atic parts of Bordeaux’s wine re­gion. Man­aged in part­ner­ship with the city’s tourist of­fice and Gironde Tourisme, the ser­vice in­cludes a ded­i­cated web­site for those who would like to plan their own tour. Free to browse on on­site tablets, www.bor­ high­lights six wine routes which en­com­pass key vine­yards but also fea­ture lo­cal gas­tron­omy and her­itage and sug­ges­tions on trans­port and ac­com­mo­da­tion. Ded­i­cated coun­selors are avail­able for ad­vice and to book ex­cur­sions which de­part from the mu­seum, maybe even one day to the re­gions shown in the film!

1 Bordeaux: gate­way to the vine­yards

No need to worry for those whose stay will not ex­tend be­yond the city; there are enough wine re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties in Bordeaux to oc­cupy most oenophiles. To de­mys­tify what can seem a com­pli­cated sub­ject, start with a tast­ing class at the Ecole du Vin or at the very least stop by its Bar à Vin which serves wine from some of the lesser known ap­pel­la­tions in­clud­ing Clairet and Cré­mant. Part of the Ur­ban Wine Trail, it is one of 20 wine bars dot­ted through­out the city, pin­point­ing where to taste amongst oth­ers, the wines of Bordeaux’s fa­mous châteaux. Also in­cluded on this list is Verre Ô Vin, next-door to the Wine and Trade Mu­seum. Both are worth a de­tour with the lat­ter de­tail­ing the his­tory of the wine trade in the Chartrons and the im­por­tant role of mer­chants. The city’s her­itage is also on the agenda dur­ing the evening port cruises de­part­ing from La Cité du Vin; the ideal way to ap­pre­ci­ate the his­tory and ar­chi­tec­ture of Bordeaux, washed down with lo­cal wine and oys­ters.

3 Mé­doc

As per­haps the most fa­mous part of the Bordeaux re­gion, the penin­sula to the north of the city known as the Mé­doc of­ten tops a wine lovers list of places to visit. Home to al­most all of the clas­si­fied growths from 1855, most are vis­i­ble whilst trav­el­ling along the D2 route de châteaux and some, such as Du Tertre and Lagrange are open for vis­its. Es­tates us­ing the Cru Bour­geois clas­si­fi­ca­tion are also based here, over 200 of which wel­come vis­i­tors. Of the af­ter­noon tours which de­part from Bordeaux, one on Wed­nes­days cul­mi­nates with a river cruise down the Gironde es­tu­ary and in­cludes a wine tast­ing on board and at a Mé­do­cain es­tate be­fore the re­turn jour­ney by bus. An­other fea­tures vis­its of clas­si­fied châteaux and fin­ishes with an art de vivre ex­pe­ri­ence of a leisurely aper­i­tif.

2 Saint-emil­ion, Pomerol & Fron­sac

Fo­cused on the vine­yards around the town of Li­bourne, this route in­cludes bastide towns, me­dieval vil­lages and a lot of Mer­lot! The lime­stone and clay vine­yards around Saint-emil­ion pro­vide a per­fect ex­pres­sion of this grape which is syn­ony­mous with the re­gion. Vis­its of the vil­lage or­ga­nized by the lo­cal tourist of­fice are a great way to ap­pre­ci­ate the viti­cul­tural his­tory and im­por­tance of wine and can be adapted for a younger au­di­ence. Tours of the vine­yards can also be fun for chil­dren, es­pe­cially if the cho­sen mode of trans­port is horse drawn car­riage, tuk tuk or even hot air bal­loon and some châteaux, such as Soutard or­ga­nize trea­sure hunts. De­part­ing from the Bordeaux Tourist Of­fice which in­cor­po­rate a com­bi­na­tion of fam­ily-owned es­tates and clas­si­fied growths.

4 En­tre-deux-mers

The rivers Garonne and Dor­dogne play an im­por­tant part here, not least in giv­ing the re­gion its name. Mark­ing the borders to the north and west, the un­du­lat­ing hills and vine­yards slopes con­trib­ute to the En­tre-deux-mers be­ing one of the most pic­turesque parts of the re­gion. De­spite the hilly ter­rain, cy­clists are reg­u­larly found amongst the vines and for­ti­fied towns, at­tracted by in part, a con­verted rail­way track. Many tours are self-guided ad­vo­cat­ing stop­ping at the Sauve-ma­jeure Abbey and some small fam­ily es­tates along the way to taste the dry white wine for which the ap­pela­tion is known. The sweet, golden wines of Cadil­lac are one of the at­trac­tions on an­other half-day tour fea­tur­ing a visit to the château of the same name.

6 Graves & Sauternes

Cred­ited as the birth­place of Bordeaux viti­cul­ture, the vine­yards of Pes­sac-léog­nan are also the clos­est to the city. Vis­i­tors do not have to travel far to see vines, with Pape Clé­ment and Les Carmes Haut-brion both lo­cated less than 30 min­utes from the cen­tre and ac­ces­si­ble by pub­lic trans­port. Deeper into the ap­pel­la­tion, es­tates such as châteaux Léog­nan and Smith Haut Lafitte have on-site restau­rant mean­ing there is no rush to leave af­ter a visit and al­most guar­an­tee­ing they re­main open on week­ends. Many of the clas­si­fied growth es­tates of Graves, such as châteaux Haut-bailly and Car­bon­nieux wel­come vis­i­tors for a tast­ing of red and white wine while fur­ther south, amongst the 27 clas­si­fied growths of Sauternes and Barsac, show­cas­ing the famed sweet wine to tourists is gain­ingin pop­u­lar­ity. A visit to some of these lat­ter es­tates forms the ba­sis of an af­ter­noon ex­cur­sion to the area from La Cité du Vin. Lovers of Lil­let can­not forgo a stop by the dis­tillery in Po­den­sac.

5 Blaye & Bourg

Of­ten re­ferred to as the côtes, the vine­yards of these ar­eas north east of the city are on the banks of the es­tu­ary, fac­ing the Mé­doc. While Blaye is well known for its 17th-cen­tury citadel, Bourg has a num­ber of 12th-cen­tury Ro­manesque churches and both are as­so­ci­ated with easy-drink­ing, red wines pro­duced from a ma­jor­ity of fam­ily-owned es­tates. A tour of the walled town of Blaye com­pletes this ex­cur­sion be­fore the re­turn trip to La Cité du vin by boat. Those want­ing to dis­cover Bourg can en­joy a cruise up the es­tu­ary with its tra­di­tional car­relet fish­ing huts be­fore dis­em­bark­ing for a tu­tored tast­ing at the glass­fronted Mai­son du Vin, perched at the top of the town. Tour­ing both ar­eas by elec­tric bike is also a pop­u­lar ac­tiv­ity as is be­ing a har­vester for a day.


Sunny day at Saint-emil­lion.


Wine bar La Ligne rouge.


Walk near Fron­sac.


Château Lamothe-berg­eron.


Re­mains of the Sauve-ma­jeure Abbey.


Château Smith Haut Lafitte in Mar­tillac.


Blaye and Bourg-sur-gironde by the paths.

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